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Spring banquet featuring Mark Bonta’s presentation “I am that bird”: reflections on ethno-ornithology and the sciences


Tue Apr 18, 2017    
5:30 pm - 9:00 pm


Hoss's Steak & Sea House
110 Patch Way Rd, Duncansville, PA, 16635

Event Type

Silent Auction 5:30 PM; Dinner 6:00 PM

This multimedia presentation explores the contributions that traditional societies are making toward human understanding of birds. Examples are drawn from the most provocative recent collaborations between native peoples and Western scientists, for example the ancient honeyguide-human shared speech in east Africa. Such examples provide a glimpse of the incredible depth of relationships between people and birds, the understanding of which is leading us into uncharted territory in ornithology and across the biological sciences. The speaker’s research is highlighted, including human-oilbird relationships in Venezuela and human-bellbird interactions in Honduras. The featured story is of the search to provide video documentation of fire propagation by the Brown Falcon (Falco berigora) in Arnhem Land, Northern Territory, Australia. This ongoing collaboration is being coordinated by the presenter and Bob Gosford, an Australian ethno-ornithologist, under the supervision of Aboriginal resource management ranger groups interested in garnering evidence of an extraordinary tool-using behavior. The intentional spreading of wildfire by certain raptors is widely recognized and accepted by Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people in the region, and in the former case is incorporated into ritual, but because definitive evidence necessary to satisfy Western scientific journal standards is still lacking, it is excluded as a factor in fire management practice. If we can garner the evidence, not only will 40,000+ years of accumulated ethno-ornithological knowledge be vindicated, but also we should reconsider the overall picture of how and why widespread tropical burning occurs—and, potentially, how humans first figured out how to use the firestick to reshape entire continents.